‘Dishonest’ Norfolk headteacher changed pupils’ test results

Former Cantley Primary School and Horning Primary School headteacher Chris Aitken. 

Former Cantley Primary School and Horning Primary School headteacher Chris Aitken. - Credit: Archant

A Norfolk primary school headteacher was sacked after altering pupils' test answers to boost school SATs results.

A disciplinary panel found Christopher Aitken acted dishonestly in May 2018 when he doctored Key Stage 2 English grammar, punctuation and spelling test papers.

The headteacher of Horning and Cantley primary schools admitted inserting extra letters into the answers of nine pupils to provide correct spellings.

The Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) panel heard Mr Aitken, who had taught at Horning since 2007, becoming headteacher in 2016, had been “under duress” and suffering from a condition likely to have “negatively impacted” on his decision making.

His misconduct had been “completely out of character and an aberration” and he had a long and good history as a teacher, the TRA was told. 

But the stresses which he had been under at the time of the tests did not excuse his actions, the panel found. 

Horning Community Primary School.

Horning Community Primary School. - Credit: Google

The TRA report said if the alterations had not been uncovered there may have been “serious consequences” for pupils who may have been judged on inaccurate prior attainment scores.

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”The panel considered that the consequences of Mr Aitken’s actions, once uncovered, had been serious, not least for the pupils whose test results for the examination were annulled during the course of their next school year,” it added. 

Mr Aitken’s actions came to light in January 2019 after the Standards and Testing Agency, the government agency that sets primary schools tests, raised concerns two weeks after the Cantley and Horning Federation merged with Freethorpe Community Primary School to form the Together Federation. 

He gave notice of his resignation as headteacher but was sacked by the federation in July 2019 following an investigation. He is now a teacher at Rocklands Primary School. 

Cantley Primary School and Nursery. 

Cantley Primary School and Nursery.  - Credit: Archant

The panel heard that Mr Aitken’s actions had a negative impact on the federation’s reputation, parental confidence and subsequently the pupil roll, but TRA decision maker Sarah Buxcey decided against banning him from teaching.

She said: “The panel considered there was substantial evidence that Mr Aitken had made a valuable and significant contribution to the profession over the 14 years in which he had been a teacher. 

“In particular, the panel noted the strong evidence of the positive impact and contribution that Mr Aitken has had as a teacher at the new school which he had worked at since September 2019.”

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